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“The Shelter Cycle”: Raised in a cult

Audiobook narration is an intimate art, made all the more so when the listener uses earphones; the performer's voice seems to be manifesting inside your head. This effect is particularly powerful in novels where the story turns on the characters' efforts to distinguish external or social reality from the internal and personal sort. Peter Rock's eerie "The Shelter Cycle" is just such a novel.

It's the story of Colville and Francine, each around 30 years old and former childhood friends. Francine has married, and is expecting her first child in suburban Boise, Idaho. Colville lives in a trailer but turns up on Francine's doorstep when a news story about a neighbor's missing child mysteriously inspires him to seek her out.

What Colville and Francine share, and what Francine's apprehensive husband, Wells, can begin to fathom, is their past as members of a reclusive religious sect planning for the imminent end of the world. Francine's father helped build the underground compound where the sect expected to ride out a nuclear holocaust, and Colville's beloved younger brother was regarded as a chosen one, destined for some great mission. (Instead, he became a soldier and was killed in Afghanistan.) How exactly the sect fell apart is revealed gradually, and the novel's action culminates in striking passages describing a visit to the groups now-deserted subterranean shelter.

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